Building Genuine Relationships

Series 12/14: Grass Route Social Innovation – Understanding the road towards integrating genuine grassroots social innovation into sustainable development.

Mini Series 4/4: Enterprising Collaboration – The series investigates how collaboration and partnership can empower us to build a resilient and sustainable future.


Collaboration can enable us to design projects with a real impact combining skills from different sectors. The collaboration between entrepreneurship and social impact has empowered change makers to design and deliver sustainable projects. The partnership in between research organisations and the wider community can create projects delivering high impact and practical innovation. The difficulty with collaboration is the requirement for each of us to engage on a deeper level and develop our own sense of purpose. How can a sense of purpose enable us to build genuine relationships?

During the last immersive visit in Cambodia I had the pleasure of meeting Friend International. Friends’ is an organisation that brought the concepts of Human Centred Design (HCD) and Collaboration back home. Friends International is a social organisation that reaches out to children and youth providing medical care, shelter and opportunity. As James Sutherland, Friends international communication Coordinator, spoke about his vision and journey in setting up Friends I realised that the most important aspect of collaboration was being genuine and treating people with respect. Friends had done an amazing job at bringing the humanity back to the street children and youth; Friends doesn’t just provide an opportunity for the children to get off the street but with the grace of being treated with respect. In doing this Friends’ has provided a holistic solution which transforms and empowers life.

Friends’ achieves these great results through its values and purpose. Friends’ only hires local people to work with the community and do not work with volunteer tourism; this enables the youth to build a stable and trustworthy point of contact with Friends. Friends consider each youth individually considering the larger impact of their work on the families of the individual. Friends’ often provide solution for the whole family in order to break the vicious cycle of poverty. Friends operate with several social enterprises in the form of shops and restaurants in order to provide opportunities to the young people. Friends have also built up a CYTI alliance which creates a space for collaborative innovation. Everything Friends has achieved is led by a passion to build genuine relationships and a real sense of care for the community.

Friends’ sense of integrity is present throughout the journey of each individual; they do not create a system of dependency but independency in which they encourage the individuals to move on and pursue their own journey. How can we apply the same sense of passion and create a culture of collaboration in engineering? EngLancer is an organisation which aims to “re-engineer the way we engineer” and create a culture of collaboration and shared value in engineering. EngLancer inspires itself from the tech industry and the progression towards a more open source platform. The Tech industry has achieved far greater by creating a space for collaboration and shared knowledge. EngLancer aims to design a platform for engineers to create and share knowledge.

Collaboration is an important part of the HCD process. Encouraging collaboration and building genuine relationships is vital in achieving sustainable development. In order to achieve this we must each go on a journey learning more about ourselves in order to connect better with other.


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